MIT Professor Emeritus of Architecture Eduardo Catalano, who designed numerous buildings around the world including a 1954 North Carolina modernist home that was hailed as the “House of the Decade,” died Thursday in Cambridge. He was 92.
Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Catalano taught at MIT from 1956 to 1977 and designed the Institute’s Stratton Student Center. Prior to working at MIT, he pioneered the architectural development of shell structures, beginning with his own home, Raleigh House, built in 1954 after he arrived to teach at the School of Design in Raleigh, N.C.
The three-bedroom house, set on a wooded lot at the end of a quiet street, featured a 4,000 square-foot hyperbolic paraboloid as its roof. Sheltered beneath the shoehorn-shaped roof was a square interior enclosed entirely in glass. The undulation of the roof provided openness in some areas and privacy in others.
“It is refreshing to see that the shelter, that is the most important element in domestic architecture, has been so imaginatively and skillfully treated as in this house by Eduardo Catalano,” Frank Lloyd Wright said of Raleigh House in the August 1956 issue of House and Home Magazine, which named it the “House of the Decade.”
Catalano sold the house when he moved to Cambridge to teach at MIT. Years of neglect culminated in the house's demolition in 2001, an event mourned by preservationists.
Catalano sought harmony in science, technology and the visual arts. He designed the U.S. embassies in Buenos Aires and in Pretoria, and the Juilliard School of Music at New York City's Lincoln Center. In addition to his buildings, Catalano designed and donated a stainless steel sculpture to the city of Buenos Aires in 2002. The 75-foot high Floralis Generica, which has since become a city landmark, has petals that open and close at dawn and dusk.
He is survived by his son and daughter.